Why Ford is supporting the new centre in Nairobi

Alliance magazine

Katharine Pearson sees the planning grants as important for the success of the new centre. ‘We see it as very important that Elkanah and his colleagues be given the opportunity to figure out the steps that need to be taken to get the Centre really solidly rooted and to establish its board, its advisers, its office, whatever. So we don’t want to burden their work plan initially with too many expectations, like being able to launch a fully-fledged peer learning group immediately.’

Peer learning groups are clearly close to Pearson’s heart. The idea of the new centre came out of the Africa Philanthropy Initiative (see Alliance, vol 5, no 2), one element of which was the Africa Foundations Learning Group. This was in turn inspired by Pearson’s 13 years’ experience as the director of a regional foundation in the US before she came to the Ford Foundation. During that time she was a grantee of the Ford Foundation’s Rural Development and Community Foundation Initiative. ‘It was an immensely rewarding and satisfying opportunity to work over a three-year period with colleagues around the country who had similar goals in terms of regional and rural foundation-building. The  peer learning that occurred during that period of time was just invaluable. So I guess when I came to East Africa, I (and colleagues around Africa and in New York) wanted to see if a similar peer learning group could be established there.’

The Ford Foundation is supporting similar initiatives to promote indigenous philanthropy and indigenous grantmaking all over the world – in South Asia, South-East Asia, Latin America. This has resulted in the creation of a learning group for Ford staff around the world, of which Katharine Pearson and Michael Edwards are co-chairs. ‘We are going to do some mapping of our own work around the globe, and see if we can learn some lessons from grants we have made to support and establish foundations and strengthen civil society.’


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